Union Tribune

January 29, 2003 

Trusting Iraqi dictator 'not an option,' allies told

By FINLAY LEWIS 
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE 

WASHINGTON President Bush last night laid out a sweeping
indictment of Saddam Hussein as a threat to the United States
while seeking to reassure the nation that domestic concerns
were still at the top of his agenda.

In a dramatic State of the Union address, Bush said that
Secretary of State Colin Powell would reveal new evidence
before the United Nations Security Council on Feb. 5 of Iraq's
efforts to build and hide weapons of mass destruction.

Bush also said reluctant allies would not thwart U.S. policy on
Iraq.

"The course of this nation does not depend on the decisions of
others," he said.

Addressing France, Germany and other powers that have been
arguing to give more time to U.N. weapons inspectors now in
Iraq, Bush said, "Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam
Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option."

After devoting the first half of his speech to a largely partisan
menu of domestic policy choices, Bush brought a sustained hush
to gathered members of the House and Senate as he launched
into a description of chilling charges against Hussein. He made
clear his belief that the Iraqi dictator would not meet the
Security Council's disarmament demands.

Much in the president's bill of particulars was familiar, but in
apparent response to demands at home and abroad for a more
explicit statement of the dangers posed by Hussein, the
president asserted that the Baghdad regime poses a threat
beyond building stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

"Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and
statements by people now in custody, reveal that Saddam
Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of
al-Qaeda," Bush said. "Secretly and without fingerprints, he could
provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them
develop their own."

At no point during the hourlong speech did Bush produce
evidence to back up those allegations. But he seemed to promise
that the evidence would be forthcoming at next week's Security
Council session.

Powell "will present information and intelligence about Iraq's
illegal weapons programs, its attempts to hide those weapons
from inspectors, and its links to terrorist groups."

Interrupted by applause nearly 80 times, the president
delivered his address at a time when his support among
Americans has slipped considerably from the extraordinary
levels attained in the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001,
attacks.

Bush now confronts increasing doubts at home and abroad
about his foreign policies, and growing restiveness among
Americans about his domestic leadership.

Bush challenged his Democratic adversaries in Congress by
reiterating his call for a 10-year, $674 billion tax cut; the partial
privatization of Social Security; a crackdown on medical
malpractice litigation; legislation permitting religious and other
faith-based organizations to provide a range of social welfare
services, and laws prohibiting cloning and late-term abortions.

All are initiatives dating from his inauguration two years ago and
have been widely opposed by Democrats.

He also seemed to invite another partisan fight last night by
proposing to offer older Americans a long-sought prescription
drug benefit that would be tied to a controversial plan to revamp
the popular Medicare program. The package would cost $400
billion during the next decade.

Medicare currently does not cover prescription drug costs
except for patients in a hospital. Under the plan, the elderly
could get more complete drug coverage by joining a
government-subsidized plan outside of the traditional Medicare
program, a move that many Democrats say would discriminate
against the poor.

Describing Medicare as "the binding commitment of a caring
society," Bush declared, "We must renew that commitment by
giving seniors access to the preventive medicine and new drugs
that are transforming health care in America."

Delivering the Democratic response, Washington Gov. Gary
Locke criticized Bush for failing to provide special aid to
economically stressed cities and states.

"People are clearly worried about terrorism and Iraq, but those
concerns should not overshadow the pressing needs of the
people here at home," Locke said.

As has become customary in State of the Union speeches, a
group of special guests gathered in first lady Laura Bush's box to
listen to the president. One of the seats was left empty in honor
of those who died in the Sept. 11 attacks, administration officials
said.

Bush asked Congress to commit $15 billion during the next five
years in an international fight against AIDS, focusing in
particular on Africa and the Caribbean.

To dramatize that commitment, Bush invited Dr. Peter
Mugyenyi, director of the Joint Clinical Research Center in
Uganda, to sit next to Laura Bush. Mugyenyi heads an AIDS task
force which has developed a comprehensive plan for HIV
prevention, care and treatment, the White House said.

Bush delivered his speech amid extraordinary security
measures.

According to Chief Terrance Gainer of the U.S. Capitol Police, 13
police agencies worked with 1,500 members of the Capitol
Police to provide protection for the president, members of
Congress, diplomats, Supreme Court justices, senior military
officers and others who attended the speech. The administration
placed the nation on an elevated alert status.

Outside the Capitol about 1,500 demonstrators protested Bush's
speech, according to news organizations.

Itemizing the specific weapons threats posed by Hussein, Bush
accused the Iraqi leader of not accounting for 25,000 liters of
anthrax, 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin and 500 tons of sarin,
mustard and VX nerve agent.

The anthrax and botulinum toxin an agent that kills by
inducing respiratory failure could both kill millions, Bush said.

He also ticked off Hussein's alleged inventories of chemical
warheads, his use of mobile biological weapons labs, and designs
on securing nuclear weapons.

In bolstering his warnings that the Iraqis are bent on developing
a nuclear capability, Bush cited Hussein's attempts to purchase
high strength aluminum tubes "suitable for nuclear weapons
production."

A number of international weapons experts have said that the
available evidence indicates that those tubes have been sought
for a conventional and legal weapons program by Iraq.

"The dictator of Iraq is not disarming," Bush declared. "To the
contrary, he is deceiving."

He added, "The only possible explanation, the only use he could
have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack.
With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological
weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of
conquest in the Middle East, and create deadly havoc in the
region." 

Bush's speech a year ago contained a memorable assertion that
the United States faces a dire national security threat from an
"axis of evil" comprised of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Last
night, the president gave a nuanced explanation about why
those threats are different, with Iraq clearly representing the
most immediate threat to the United States.

Bush described Iran as undergoing internal turmoil that could
be steered in the direction of freedom. The dangers posed by
North Korea's nuclear weapons program, he said, are being dealt
with through the joint diplomatic efforts of the nations in the
region South Korea, Japan, China and Russia.

About Hussein, Bush said, "Nothing to date has restrained him
from his pursuit of (weapons of mass destruction) not
economic sanctions, not isolation." More pointedly, Bush
outlined what he described as Hussein's alliance with terrorists,
including al-Qaeda.

Though he did not accuse Iraq of complicity in the Sept. 11
attacks, the president said, "Imagine those 19 hijackers with
other weapons and other plans this time armed by Saddam
Hussein. . . . We will do everything in our power to make sure
that day never comes."

In an emotional message to the military units deploying in the
Persian Gulf, Bush said, "Some crucial hours may lie ahead. In
those hours, the success of our cause will depend on you. . . .
You believe in America and America believes in you."